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How a Youth Advisor can ease anxious job seekers

Every day ETC’s Youth Advisors assist young job seekers, who are often scared to get a job, ease their anxiety and build their confidence so they can enter the workforce. Below is a story from our Youth Advisor Nina who describes her experience with a young man who was ready to bolt out the door.

How it begins…

He walked in the door amidst an outburst of chaos and frivolity. I clocked him hesitate for a millisecond, his eyes darting to the door through which he had just walked.

He was about average height, slight build with a shock of greasy dark red hair. He wore shorts, a mismatched t-shirt and dirty, worn sneakers. He had a slight slouch to his posture that some would call dismissive; others would see it for its discomfort. A fish out of water.

“I have an appointment at 11.” It was a mumble to no one in particular. Another glance at the door.

Instinctively I knew that his safe place would be in the far corner next to my desk, so I sat a little higher and smiled at his downcast face.

“Hey Mate,” I called out. “Come on down and take a seat.”

The chair was pressed up against the wall a good four feet from me. That was where it lived when it was unoccupied because more than once I had fallen over it when I was preoccupied. He scurried down and sat in the chair, head down, hands jammed between his knees.

“Pull the chair a bit closer,” I said cheerfully. “I don’t want to yell, and I don’t bite.”

I concentrated on finding the right documentation on my laptop whilst he scurried over like an upside-down crab. Checking the calendar, I found his appointment and started the paperwork.

As I explained to him what we were about, why he was here and what we could do for him he sat staring at his hands which he spasmodically ground together as if he were in pain. Every now and then he looked up, nodded then looked down again. I stopped, took a breath, and swung my chair so that I was directly facing him. He stopped wringing his hands when my voice disappeared. His eyes flicked up to my face, and for a second I saw fear and pain in them.

Breaking the ice

“So,” I said gently, “This is the part where I get to know a bit about you, and you get to know a bit about me.”

He looked up and held my gaze for a second longer before looking down.

“As I said before,” I started gently, “We tailor our program to suit you. I don’t want to push you into anything you don’t want to do. No matter how crazy your dreams may be, I am here to find a way to help you get there, and in order to do that I need to know what it is that you want to do.”

He had looked back at me and hadn’t looked away. Nodding he shifted in his chair before lifting the sides of his mouth in an attempt to smile. It was a start, and we both knew it.

“So,” I said turning back to my screen. “Let’s work our way through this survey together and find out what it is we can do.”

He nodded once more before flicking his eyes to the screen, a flash of apprehension crossing his face.

As we worked our way through the questions, he relaxed, and his tight balled-up body language began to relax. Running his hands through his hair, he smiled more, a crooked smile that I would get to know as his signature. He became more animated as trust spread its way through his body, a fragile trust that was instantly challenged by two words.

Dream Job?

Instantaneously he dropped his eyes, and his hands flew back between his knees.

“Anything.” I said gently, “No boundaries. Nothing to hold you back.”

He glanced up through his fringe.


It was a whisper. A breath-holding hope. A dream spilled out in a sound. He held my gaze as if to test the reality of his braveness.

I smiled at him and nodded.

“Ok. That’s a doable dream. You just need a pathway, and we are here to help you find it.”

A sigh that came from way down deep. A crooked smile that for the first time reached his eyes.

The mood lifted. The crooked smile appearing for longer, more often. Even was blessed with a laugh, which surprised both of us really.


Stable accommodation?

The withdrawal wasn’t as rapid, nor as complete as before.

Bit by bit the story came stuttering out. Living with Dad now. Not a good relationship. Mum lives down South. Mum wants to travel with her partner. Kicked me out so she could sell the house. Don’t talk to her. Can’t talk to her. Got no mates up here. Nowhere else to go. Just wanna get a job. Need my own space so I can keep my dogs.

And inside my heart cracked.

How to overcome barriers with the right support

Each week he came in, right on time, smiling that crooked smile. We researched courses. We talked about jobs. We put plans in place. We shot the breeze. We talked crap. He came in the door with confidence, with determination and with hope.

I got the call after hours on a Friday afternoon. I was on a four-day weekend and away with my husband.

There was an urgency I hadn’t heard before, and his words spilled out making no sense.

“Gotta get out. Got kicked out. He’s gone for the weekend. Got til Sunday. Need some fuel. Need. Need. I dunno.”

Breathe mate.” Two glasses of Rose forgotten. “Are you safe? Are you in a safe place?”

He was, for now. Not sure. Can’t stay. Can’t stay.

“What are your options mate? Have you got somewhere you can go?”

Breathing hard he was silent for a minute.

“Have you got somewhere to go?” I repeated.

“No. I don’t know. I think so. Gotta make a call.”

Ok.” My voice was firm. “You make that call, and I’ll get you some fuel cards. I’ll call you back.”

Calling my boss full of apologies about the lateness of the hour. Explained in a rush what I needed.

Half an hour later he was in a safe location, fuel in his car and a plan in place. He was shaky but grateful.

“Keep in touch,” I told him. “I’ll call you on Tuesday. If you need me just call.”

I could feel his crooked smile over the phone.

Happily ever after

Three days later he called and asked for help with his resume. We went over it and tizzied it up a bit then sent it back.

“Thanks.” He said, “It looks great.”

The next day he called again.

“Got a job interview.” He said through his crooked smile. “What’s a Zoom?”

We made a plan to practice on Zoom. Set a time for the next day to have a mock interview and answer any questions he might have. It was great to see his face, his crooked smile.

Two days later, on the day we moved into our new office, the whole ETC Gympie family together he called again.

“Guess what?” I just knew from the sound of his voice what it was.

“Wait!” I cried as I raced into the middle of the room. “I gotta put you on speaker.”

We all waited, heads craned towards the phone.

The sweetest words ever…

“I got the job.”

This time he was the chaos and frivolity.

“Thanks.” His voice was full of pride, confidence, and gratitude.

My boss looked at me and said,

“We could have given up on that kid, but we didn’t.”

Thanks to Nina and our Workforce Australia – Transition to Work team for sharing this inspiring story with us. It’s great to hear our young job seekers’ stories and know that even if they are anxious or scared to get a job, they can overcome any barriers with the right support.

Are you scared or anxious to find a job?

ETC’s Transition to Work team specialise in supporting young people to gain skills, qualifications and enter the workforce Join us today >

Workforce Australia – Transition to Work

ETC provides Transition to Work (TtW) across the Wivenhoe and Wide Bay Sunshine Coast QLD, to see if this program is delivered by ETC in your area, view our locations page – Find your closest ETC site >

You can also find a full list of providers across Australia on workforceaustralia.gov.au.



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